This post has been a frustrating one to start, because at the moment self-care is something I have a lot of feelings about, but it takes so many different forms that I don’t know what to focus on. Self-care varies, because people vary, but here are some ways in which I (at least try to!) practice self-care:
Disregarding “normal”. This might sound obvious, but it’s easier said than done when the neurotypical standards aren’t just present in your own minds, but in the minds of others and in the very fabric of a society not designed to accommodate people like us. This year I’ve had to try and unpack every single “I’m not X enough” standard I have – I mean literally typing out every single one I could think of – and counter them, one by one. I am learning to compare myself to me, six months ago, a year ago, three years ago, but not to my peers, because they’re not me, they’re all their own person, and most of them are neurotypical. This year, I have grown – my experience wasn’t necessarily what I expected, or what was expected of me, or what my friends have experienced, but I have grown.
Special interests. (No, I don’t like the term either, but nobody’s thought of anything better yet…) Escaping the rest of the world, engaging, pacing and spinning around the room and *gasp* not feeling guilty or childish for it. If they can have their big night out, I get to have this.
Accepting online interaction as real, valid interaction. Because it is.
Actually genuinely really being honest. This is a very very VERY recent thing for me, and it’s been brought about for two main reasons. Firstly, to cut a long story short, there is a space where friends are dropping our socially-acceptable masks and talking about our worries and fears and realising we’re actually not alone in them. Secondly, out of necessity, because I haven’t exactly been feeling 100% this week and I needed to have somebody here who understands and can help me out where necessary. I have definitely internalised the idea that if I am still capable of asking for help then I obviously don’t need it and nobody will believe me; I also often fall into the trap of assuming an allistic person probably doesn’t really understand whatever my problem is. Neither of these things are true. Showing vulnerability is hard for me, and this is going to be a slow process, but you’d be surprised by the level of support and empathy that’s there, given the chance – and who knows, you might encourage others to do the same.
Writing notes to myself. This is something I’ve done on-and-off for a couple of years, mostly just on my phone and laptop. I look back over them when I’m feeling useless and pathetic, and they remind me that I’m not.
Lists. For when there’s so many thoughts competing for my attention that I have no idea how to proceed with my day.
Acknowledging invisible strength. That is to say, feeling proud of having done something that scares or overwhelms you even when that’s not noticed because to the neurotypical majority, it’s just normal and everyday. Sometimes, for many of us, that stuff is everyday – and even if I do say so myself, that is really, really brave. Recognising that helps me to recognise when I need to step back and recharge, why I’m feeling crappy and how to fix it (where possible), and how best to prioritise when spoons are low.
Taking things one day at a time. The next couple of months have very scary elements, next year seems impossible, and the future is a dark and terrifying void. But today? I can do today. The chances are I can even do tomorrow.